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Over the past 12 months I've discovered quite a lot about how my body works - and, in particular, how the appetite works. So I thought I'd post my musings on here.

When I began, I struggled to explain why I (and others) feel more hunger on feed days (very) than on fasting days (not at all).

The more I thought about it, the more I came to an insight into the possible cause of this phenomenon - and it relates to the way our bodies have developed over the millenia:

As far as the body is concerned, it recognises two states - famine, and feast.

When we don't eat, our bodies assume there is no food available - famine situation - and it suppresses the (for want of a better term), 'hunger switch'. Feeling hungry all the time would just be a distraction for someone who is hunting for the next meal - so hunger is suppressed.

[I use the term, 'hunger switch', because it really is like flicking on a switch. It's easy to turn it on, but it takes time for it to reset to the off position.)

When we do eat, our bodies assume there is food available - feast situation - and goes into hunger mode. So, we eat breakfast, then a short time later, the body says, "This must be a feast day, so I want more food - to store up some reserves against the next famine." The trouble is, in this day and age, in our society, famine never comes!

There are some things you can do about managing the appetite and controlling the hunger switch:

Recognise the danger times. If you don't eat, the switch doesn't get flicked on. If you have the slightest bit of food, the hunger switch goes on and you want more food throughout the day. In fact, after you've eaten, your hunger switch slowly resets itself - until you activate it with more food. Check this out next time you prepare a meal. If you haven't eaten through the afternoon, your hunger switch is 'off'. Leave it until just before you serve up the meal before tasting anything and it will remain off. Start tasting as soon as you start chopping your veg - and you'll want to pick all through the meal preparation.

Wait for 20 minutes before having seconds (works for your youngsters, too!). It takes this length of time for the food to travel through the large intestine and activate the satiety hormone, leptin.

So set your kitchen timer for 20 or 30 minutes when you've finished eating, and, more often than not, you'll feel your appetite subside.

For me, the danger time is when I make myself a hot drink - I want to constantly nibble while I'm drinking something. So, to hold this at bay, when I've made myself a cup of coffee, I set the timer for 10 or 15 minutes or so - I can't have that first biscuit/bit of chocolate/whatever, until the alarm goes off. By then I'm halfway through the drink and I nibble a lot less than I would have done. Or, if I don't want to eat anything, I'll set the timer for 20-30 minutes. This only applies on a 'feed' day - oddly enough I'm never tempted when I'm fasting.

If you do over-indulge in the afternoon/evening, have a 'mini-fast' the following day. I've always got something on the stove (the kitchen is my office!) and I often nibble away at this in the evening. If I think I've gone overboard, I'll just miss out breakfast - or I won't eat until dinner time when I'll have a normal meal. I justify this to myself by saying 'Well, you had your breakfast and lunch last night'.
It would be interesting to see if there are any scientific studies to support your highly plausible theory! It makes sense on many levels.
Absolutely agree with this, Breadandwine....starting to eat unleashes ridiculous snacking mode inside me... .great point wrt waiting 20mins before second helpings.
Wow - that's a very interesting and plausible premise! Thank you so much for posting that. :-)
What an interesting set of observations - I guess this is what is meant by mindful behaviour and forms the basis of most scientific discovery I think.

Thanks for sharing this Breadandwine.
Makes a lot of sense.
Probably explains why for a lot of people it's easier to just eat one evening meal as when the "eating switch" goes on, it's hard to turn off.

Thanks for sharing breadandwine
Hey :)
Cool to see a familiar face here, I do believe you are right, hunger is a mind game. Know and plan in your mind to fast and hunger often isn't a problem.
Not too long ago, I read Mastering Leptin, by Byron Richards, and also became interested in Jack Kruse's theories. Their diet prescriptions for weight loss are not identical, but are very similar, and based on the same research. Kruse has since wandered into other strategies, such as cold-induced thermogenesis, but that's another story.

Anyway, both of them emphasize allowing at least four hours, and preferably five, between meals, with no snacks. This is meant to "reset" the appetite, so that we return to "famine" mode before we eat again. There are a few other simple rules too, such as never eating after 7 pm, and getting a substantial amount of protein at breakfast. I actually had pretty good success with this approach, and on 5:2 I'm sticking with it on feed days.

I know there are other views out there, but personally I've found that any diet that allows any kind of snacking, even "healthy snacks", takes me down the wrong path. Snacking just keeps me in "eating mode", i.e., looking for food.

I can really relate to the point about picking while doing meal prep--that's a great observation. Never mind picking on veg; I'd be more likely to go into the fridge and carve myself a nice hunk of cheese to nibble on while preparing supper, probably adding an extra 200-300 calories in the process! And as you say, that would increase my appetite when supper was finally ready. There's a reason why they're called "appetizers", I guess.

I like the 20-minute rule, although I've found that it takes even less time than that for the signal to get through. If I have a cup of tea or coffee after a meal, by the time I'm done with it, my appetite is gone.

And we shouldn't underestimate the power of our mental states to influence metabolism. When I finish dinner, I say aloud "The kitchen is closed." I do it to remind myself, and anyone else within earshot, that I'm done eating for the day. At some point it becomes automatic. I need to master the meal prep thing, though.

This also shows the real danger of having an alcoholic drink in the evening. It's not the extra calories, which can be allowed for by eating less at dinner. It's the way that drink seems to signal, "It's eating time again!" and I start looking for a snack to go with the drink.
I don't want to set a timer to say when we can have seconds or a biscuit.

If you eat biscuits & seconds they make you fat because you don't need them.

That's the mental state you want to focus in on!

Cup of tea, couple of chocolate digestives in the morning, in Bed, bloomin Bliss mind!
Breadandwine wrote: If you don't eat, the switch doesn't get flicked on.


Very true. This is why breakfast is a void meal. I try to skip it on feed days and always skip it on fast days.

Love your kitchen timer idea and ill start using it :like: Thank you!
Ubizmo wrote: There are a few other simple rules too, such as never eating after 7 pm


Why is this?

I absolutely must go to bed on a full stomach or I can't sleep. :confused:
Good thread - can relate to most of this.

I do 4:3 and I find my "danger" day is Tuesday as I tend to eat "normally" on Monday and Tuesday. Monday is ok as I have fasted on Sunday so I am used to eating less. By Tuesday I have "learned" to eat more so I can tend to snack too much or even binge. The other days are ok as they alternate between fast or normal.

For this reason I think when I get to my target weight I might be best just eating at maintenance level on fast days rather than going to 6:1.

On fast days I try to have just one meal as I found that 3 small meals were making the hunger worse than if I had just one. However if I eat a lot of carbs - particularly sweets or chocolate - the day before a fast the hunger is worse on the fast day.

I don't like to eat too late as I feel like I can't sleep on a full stomach so I am not like Pip in this case!
I think it may have something to do with blood sugar and insulin. On fast days, it may help to stick to lean meat and veggies. On eat days, try to avoid breads and extream sugar like candy and sweets, which spike insulin and make you feel more hungry.... and keep your mind occupied. It helps. More research is needed in this area, and each of us have our differences in body chemistry. Good luck to you all.
I'm not sure your 'hunger switch' theory applies generally, it certainly doesn't to my stupid and recalcitrantly fat body. Whether it's a fast day or an eating day, I wake up and within half an hour I'm ravenously hungry. I have never been able to stop this.

I last out past that half hour because I have to take thyroid medication and magnesium on an empty stomach and wait half an hour, preferably more for the magnesium, to eat. (I have to take magnesium four times a day or I get twitchy legs and fluttering heart. Can't seem to retain mag in my body. Health so much better since I found out.)

However, the intensity of my hunger has gradually reduced during most fast days.

I too cannot sleep without something in my stomach. I can get to sleep but wake in the middle of the night, feeling too hungry to go back to sleep.

Which just goes to show what big variations there are in human beings' biochemisty.
Been reading about Pip and Saj's empty stomach problem - this results in an for them inability to fall asleep, or remain asleep, when they are hungry. Perhaps this process is related to serotonin levels?

I know that insulin helps serotonin cross the blood/brain barrier. So, a high carb snack and the resultant spike in insulin allows serotonin to enter the brain. Serotonin is VERY soporific. "5-hydroxytryptamine is a monoamine neurotransmitter."
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